Software is Not the Complete Answer

Why are software implementations that promise so much value often considered lacking? Obviously there are a host of reasons that can be the cause of unachieved value, but let’s consider one that I believe deserves attention –  change management, which I am defining as the intentional effort of an organization to address the functional, organizational, and emotional transition associated with a program change, software or otherwise.

When Change is Good

Having led software and outsourcing implementations for 20 years, I see the key critical success factor for a successful deployment is defining what the project needs to achieve. Second to that is how the organization prepares for the change associated with the new business processes and/or system.

My observation is that U.S. culture has shifted expectation concerning change to any process or system. While the change communication used to be the responsibility of the organization, today the responsibility has been shifted to the individual interacting with the organization. There is an expectation of, “You will either learn this yourself, or become obsolete in your job.”

Many organizations don’t invest enough in the process of system transformation. While it is true that individuals will not be able to perform well if they do not learn the new process or system, what is more impactful is the effect on the organization. “How much time is lost in the software implementation between the way things used to be done and the way things are done today?”

In the last year, I had an implementation with a consumer and product goods company, over $500M in sales, where the internal governance issues appeared right after the training. Although we had adequate system training, some employees were still reluctant to use the system and some did not use the system at all. Because the organization did not have strong leadership, the project team members were only able to minimally participate in the process for one reason or another. Despite identifying the issue, the client felt unempowered to address the dysfunctional behavior or address the issues through a change management program.

In contrast, I had another implementation last year with another CPG company, over $8B in sales, and they promoted the system change, trained their employees, and followed up after the training to make sure people were using the system, understood what was expected of them, and held additional training sessions. The approach of supporting employees in the new way of doing things is critical and provides the best overall value for the company, because the employees are more engaged. Supporting the process delivered far better outcomes than what occurred in my first example.

If you consider the time for planning and managing the additional communication, the payback is fantastic.

In the world of Innovation, time to market is very significant. So the extra time investing the organizational transformation contributes greatly to the overall value derived from an implementation of software! More importantly, if you have planned well, then the change management doesn’t necessarily need to break the bank in order to be successful. A well thought-out and strategic approach gives your employees the opportunity to join the process of change and become early adopters — or at least supporters — which means your business change or software implementation will return better results.

Marathon, Not Sprint

The pace and intensity of business increases, so we need to bring along the people that will make our companies successful. Our colleagues in our respective ventures will produce far better results if we help them connect the dots with the transformation.

My advice is this. Before beginning your implementation, ask yourself if you have the answers the following questions:

  • Why is this change important?
  • Where are we going as an organization?
  • What’s in it for me? (from the audience’s perspective)
  • What will we be able to do differently because of this change?
  • How will I see the impact of doing business differently?

When you take the extra time to connect the dots, the payback as an organization is very significant. You will find more loyal employees who are dedicated to the vision and values of the company, and whatever the change is, you will have far better results.


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